A Manifesto of Political Demise by Submitting to the Politically Dead Hypocrites

June 25, 2011

A few years ago, Meles Zenawi, who has been leading the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for many years and Ethiopia for the last twenty years, reportedly wrote an essay titled “Dead Ends and New Beginnings.” According to some official accounts, he interrupted his university education in 1975 to join the TPLF and became its chairman in 1985; he has been its sole leader ever since.

The TPLF, as the name informs, was set out to liberate Tigray from Ethiopia.

During his millennium speech on September 10, 2007, Meles declared: “It is the eve of the beginning of a new Ethiopian millennium.” That was a clear departure, or a claim thereof, from his adulthood political venture in the TPLF that characterized Ethiopia as the country that colonized Meles’s regional state of Tigray. The TPLF wrote a manifesto in which it reportedly asserted that Tigray needed to be independent from Ethiopia.

This organization sacrificed enormous human and material resources to attain Tigray's independence from Ethiopia before turning around to assume a center stage in Ethiopia’s politics over the last twenty years.

It is for these clearly contrasting reasons that we have asked if Meles’s millennium speech was his soft landing one: A Soft Landing Speech for Meles Zenawi?

Dr. Messay Kebede, on the other hand, had been an academic who taught at Addis Ababa University (AAU) before he was dismissed from it by the order of Meles Zenawi not long after his army marched into the capital and assumed power subsequent to the fall of socialism and a renewed direction in the global political order.

A few years ago, Dr. Messay analyzed the work of Aleqa Asres Yenesew regarding “the problems that Ethiopia and Ethiopian society face today.” In his analysis, Dr. Messay highlighted Aleqa Asres’s point that “the heritage of a legacy and the assumption of a common destiny define a nation rather than its ethnic or linguistic oneness.” Dr. Messay subscribes to Aleqa Asres’s idea by stating that it was a delightful surprise for him to have discovered that many of his “findings reproduce Asres’s thought!”

In a recently published article on various Ethiopian websites, Dr. Messay disclosed to the public what he called a personal manifesto. His article, which he dubbed personal manifesto, was published under at least three titles: Ethiopia: Meles’s Political Dilemma and the Developmental State: Dead-Ends and Exit and A prescription for the political stalemate in Ethiopia.

He discusses various topics ranging from economic development to the theory of Developmental State, the latter one of which seems to be the latest idea being considered by some of the untiring Ethiopian Student Movement (ESM) bent on importing ideas time after time even as it seems to be finally a subscriber to the homegrown Ethiopian Renaissance agenda.

In his arguments in this long article, he makes some simple and, we might add, irresponsible fallacies.

In the first case, he points to both the ruling and alternative political parties “the existence of a political stalemate” and calls on them to take “the decision to engage in negotiations.”

We must ask Dr. Messay how it was lost to him that this call has been made umpteen times, so to speak, by a multitude of organized Ethiopian political parties and independent activists but to no avail?

Didn’t Engineer Hailu Shawel, who was one of the leading political figures in the 2005 legislative elections of Ethiopia, which Dr. Messay termed “a watershed in Ethiopia’s recent politics,” engage in this kind of negotiation just recently only to be characterized as a submissive leader and driven out of Meles’s government no sooner than they reached and signed an agreement?

In the second case, Dr. Messay asserts that “Meles is not likely to marginalize the ‘opposition’ and achieve final victory.”

Just about a year ago, Meles told the world, including at Columbia University, that his party scored the legislative elections of 2010 with a 99.6% victory. He incarcerated one of the leading Ethiopian politicians, Judge Birtukan Mideksa, for speaking about Meles’s political machinations in the aftermath of the 2005 legislative elections. He later told the world that his incarceration of her for the wrong reason was her fault.

The third fallacy is stating that “the only way by which the present ruling elite can begin its transformation is through the establishment of a grand coalition materializing a power-sharing arrangement among various elite groups.”

Wasn’t the Paris conference of the early 1990s, which was later to be followed up with another in the Ethiopian capital, about a similar call? Wasn’t one of the political leaders who later went to Ethiopia for this purpose, Aberra Yemeneab, picked up at the airport and has been languishing in jail up to the present day?

So, what makes Dr. Messay, one of those Ethiopian political activists who at times show displays of original ideas, think that his individual manifesto isn’t a self-prescribed blueprint for his personal political ruin?

We know that he has in the past told the public through one of his writings and public discourses that he has been approached by Meles’s interlocutors. It would be baffling if a thinker of his caliber would so easily fall for such interlocutors and writes such a self-defeating analysis, especially for the politically dead hypocrites.

As Dr. Messay observed from a recent speech at the 20th anniversary of the march of the TPLF to the capital, Meles is already bringing to the forefront the historical identity of Ethiopia.

Arguably, it is true that the 2005 legislative elections of Ethiopia was a watershed in Ethiopia’s recent political history. To be sure, Meles’s sudden change of direction from an active engagement in a wanton destabilization of the country and the region to the Ethiopian Renaissance agenda was not of his or his clique’s making but forced to enter by historical circumstances. Dr. Messay’s long analysis focuses on just one aspect of the multitude dimensions of this turn of historical undertaking.

For whatever figurative or historical significance they may be useful for our self-described “elites,” the wisdoms of Argi Amani, Yared, Zereyacob, and Dabassa Guyo, to name a few from the northern to southern parts of ancient to present day Ethiopia, have been pointing our people and their future in the direction of our renaissance that we have charted.

This is justifiably so to the extent that a cross-section of our society has already subscribed to the Ethiopian Renaissance agenda in earnest. Yes, this agenda is that deep and it did not emanate from the fertile imagination of Meles Zenawi as his deputy Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn would have the world believe.

This is a man who shamefully talks about an Ethiopian renaissance as he continues to sit on the chairmanship of the TPLF, an organization that was set out to liberate Meles’s Tigray region from Ethiopia. One would wonder if the dismantling of the TPLF shouldn't have come before Meles opens his mouth to talk about an Ethiopian renaissance.

As a matter of fact, as Helen Epstein astutely observed about a year ago, he may not even have the basic understanding of the very essence of renaissance. She wrote: “In 2007, Meles called for an ‘Ethiopian renaissance’ to bring the country out of medieval poverty, but the Renaissance he’s thinking of seems very different from ours . The Western Renaissance was partly fostered by the openness to new ideas created by improved transport and trade networks, mail services, printing technology, and communications—precisely those things Meles is attempting to restrict and control.”

Her conclusion is partly based on his statements made back in 2001 as follows: “When ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ permeates the entire [Ethiopian] society, individuals will start to think alike and all persons will cease having their own independent outlook. In this order, individual thinking becomes simply part of collective thinking because the individual will not be in a position to reflect on concepts that have not been prescribed by ‘Revolutionary Democracy.’”

With this level of consciousness, the reason this man can smile among the self-conscious leaders of the world while using a poorly understood concept that others have put out for our people may well be because he is subconscious to the idea of self-consciousness and shame.

It is true that he and his clique have been making every effort to outsmart their political rivals by using various machinations, as one of Ethiopia’s political analysts recently wrote. That was brought to a halt before the 2005 legislative elections by the discovery of their modus operandi.

This is a man who has been committing mistakes after mistakes as a member and leader of a rebel movement for 17 years and Ethiopia for 20 more years.

He has overseen the deliberation in Ethiopia’s government offices of politically motivated wanton assassinations of Ethiopian civilians. His functionary, Tesfaye Gebreab, recently narrated about that of the late Darara Kafani in Ambo as but one example. As we speak, there are families living in Ethiopia and abroad without knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones who were abducted years ago in broad daylight by Meles’s functionaries.

Since he became known to the Ethiopian public with seemingly confident logical reasoning even when making the wrong and false arguments, Meles was heard saying only recently, at least to the knowledge of this writer, that his opponents plant “ye hesab fenji” (which roughly may mean bomb idea) against his government.

What has been contributing to the problem of the Ethiopian people is the lack of stronger commitment by some of the self-professed activists to commit to their principles and carry it through to the end. To define a self as elite when the failure to find out the modus operandi of one’s opponent is evident is preposterous.

As the wise philosopher said, all I know is that I know nothing. We might add that to be wise starts with the knowledge of virtue and its protection. And we can top it off with the Oromo saying that goes “a naïve talks about what he knows whereas a wise knows what he talks about.” That would be probably befitting in the pluralist Ethiopia that is being revived.

The revival of pluralist Ethiopia is not a political stalemate for which Dr. Messay should belabor to find an exit. It is already an exercise that found a signal in Meles Zenawi’s recent speech that brought Dr. Messay to the edge of saying “Hallelujah,” as he alluded to in his long article.

Even if we feel that it should be preceded by a formal apology to the other PDOs that Meles’s clique formed early on, some twenty years ago, which we have been criticizing for so long, Professor Messay Kebede has all the rights to organize the Ethiopian Professors’ Democratic Organization (EPDO) and have it submitted to Meles Zenawi, which the latter probably needs badly to escape the multitudes of responsibilities he has been facing and will continue to face for eternity because of his past actions in Ethiopia's politics.

In the meantime, we can continue to observe the revival of pluralist Ethiopia as those who had been at the forefront of its destabilization start to act more Ethiopians than those who led the way yet again to its renaissance agenda.

It is unfortunate that some of us who would rather use even our free time in our chosen areas of professional exercise have to step out of our chosen line to express our opinions on such critical issues.

What we know is that it is an innate value of self-respecting people to rise to the call of their conscience when they see things going the wrong way as they see it. Despite the differences of political opinions one might have with U. S. politicians Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, we can only appreciate the passion with which they have risen and are expressing the political views they believe in.

In the final analysis, Dr. Messay has the right to express his opinions and silently submit to the politically dead hypocrites but not the right to add insult to injuries to have his perceived elites walk over the sacrifices of many. In fact, we may even fairly guess that he won’t get the favors he might be seeking but will be abused to recant his past bold criticisms no sooner than the date of his submission, as Engineer Hailu Shawel found out the hard way.

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